Obama’s call was not congratulatory but a diplomatic warning

When President Barack Obama, reportedly, phoned Ghana’s president, John Evans Atta-Mills, on Friday, April 10, 2009, many of us expected both the Ghanaian media and Prof. Atta-Mills’ National Democratic Congress (NDC) to make quite a lot of capital out of such a call. And, of course, such capital might not altogether have been misplaced, although the spin put on it by the various Ghanaian media organizations prompted many a sober-minded observer to sit up and reckon the fact that it had taken the first African-American premier nearly four months, after the fact, to personally field his call. Of course, we recall Mr. Obama having officially issued a congratulatory, and largely pro-forma, statement in the wake of Ghana’s most recent general election.

Still, it is quite logical, as well as natural, to presume that Mr. Obama, upon his grueling and landmark election victory, had not almost immediately lost his memory, regarding both the location of his new Oval Office and his official telephone, as to tarry until nearly four months after the Ghanaian presidential election to personally congratulate his opposite number on the Gulf of Guinea, as unprecedently hectic as his schedule may be.

Besides, for a relatively politically and economically insignificant country like the erstwhile Gold Coast, President Obama needed not to have placed his phone call by himself. In all likelihood, he could have instructed his top foreign affairs czar and former arch-rival Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States’ Secretary of State, to do just that.

In other words, the real purpose of President Obama’s phone call to President Atta-Mills, to cut to the chase, as it were, which was tersely and bluntly contained in the press release published by most of the major Ghanaian media organizations and enterprises, regarded President Atta-Mills’ apparently smug attitude towards the massive and unprecedented use of Ghanaian territory to illegally smuggle narcotic drugs into both Western Europe and the United States.

Recently, for instance, at least two Ghanaian drug couriers, carrying substantially commercial amounts of contrabands, have been arrested at airports located dangerously close to the American seat of governance. Then in-between the aforesaid arrests, a huge consignment of illegal drugs, allegedly transshipped from Ghana into Germany, a significant U.S. ally, was widely reported by the international media to have been intercepted.

And so it almost goes without saying that it would be criminally remiss for anybody to assume that President Obama has, somehow, been too busy trying to revive the gravely paralyzed American economy to notice things of patently horrifying and outright criminal offences, literally, allowed to get out of hand by the Ghanaian premier.

Among speakers of Akan, there is a maxim that: “One speaks in proverbs – or idiomatic language – to the wise; but to the fool, one speaks in plain language.” The latter half of the foregoing maxim, obviously, regards the fact that people who are shallow-minded tend to take things literally. Thus it is quite safe to interpret the American president’s phone call to his Ghanaian counterpart in terms of proverbs and plain words, as it were. And as to whether President Obama selected “Button A” or “Button B,” pretty much remains a privileged secret shared between the two leaders themselves and, perhaps, with one or two presidential aides.

Having made the foregoing observations, it also bears highlighting the grimly ironic fact that in the lead-up to last December’s Ghanaian presidential election, then-Candidate Atta-Mills and, his godfather, Mr. Jeremiah John Rawlings, made the illegal-drug menace a major plank of their campaign platform, and even went as self-righteously far as squarely blaming then-President John Agyekum-Kufuor’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) government for having tacitly and collaboratively allowed the country to fester into a major hub of illegal-drug transshipment.

Of course, back then, we knew fully well that it was, in fact, the Rawlings-Mills government that officially converted Ghana into a major illegal-drug market. And with the infamous Benneh Affair fresh in our minds, we were not the least bit surprised a couple of weeks ago, when it came to media light that several hundred kilograms’ worth of narcotic drugs had been intercepted in Germany. In essence, this may be just another pedestrian case of the chickens coming home to roost. Or is it really the case of the hitherto masked zebra, or umbrella, at long last, showing the proverbial international community its true nature and colors?

Then there is also this joke making the rounds about Mr. Obama having called to congratulate President Atta-Mills on the successful conduct of last December’s parliamentary and presidential elections. Here again, as we vividly recall, it was the then-Candidate Atta-Mills, flanked by the just-named Chairman of the Council of State, among other NDC stalwarts, who venomously vowed to rain a Kenya-type apocalypse on Ghana if he failed at his third-time bid for the presidency.

And we must also significantly observe that since assuming the reins of governance, President Atta-Mills has been making speech after speech, as well as releasing statement after statement, promising to effectively strangle any operative of the Kufuor government deemed by the NDC to have abused his/her public trust. And on the latter score, Prof. Atta-Mills has wasted absolutely no time in siccing his National Security Coordinator, Lt.-Col. Gbevlo-Lartey (rtd.) on virtually every leading member of the now-opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) who is known to own a motor vehicle in good working condition.

Indeed, if President Atta-Mills were a smart man, rather than unduly gloat over the recent phone call from the American president, the former Legon law school professor would be frantically about the imperative business of promptly beefing up security at the country’s major ports of entry, and also religiously ensuring that, unlike under the tenure of Monsieur Rawlings, illegal drug traffickers caught breaking the law are prosecuted to the fullest extent. For, ultimately, how the American leader comes to perceive the Atta-Mills government, positively or negatively, will greatly impact on significant U.S. development aid, or any economic assistance, made available to Ghana.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of 20 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: [email protected].